LibQUAL+ is a suite of services that libraries use to solicit, track, understand, and act upon users’ opinions of service quality. These services are offered to the library community by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). The program’s centerpiece is a rigorously tested Web-based survey bundled with training that helps libraries assess and improve library services, change organizational culture, and market the library. The goals of LibQUAL+ are to:
- Foster a culture of excellence in providing library service
- Help libraries better understand user perceptions of library service quality
- Collect and interpret library user feedback systematically over time
- Provide libraries with comparable assessment information from peer institutions
- Identify best practices in library service
- Enhance library staff members’ analytical skills for interpreting and acting on data
CU-Boulder Libraries has participated in LibQUAL+ during four administrations of the survey—2001, 2002, 2004, and 2006. Over this period of time there have been changes in the instrument and in the goals of LibQUAL+ as well as in the results reported to CU-Boulder Libraries.
The 22 survey items used in 2006 were developed through several iterations of quantitative studies involving a larger pool of 56 items. This selection has been grounded in the users’ perspective as revealed in a series of qualitative studies involving a larger pool of items. LibQUAL+ also offers libraries the ability to select five optional local service quality assessment items.
The number of institutions participating in LibQUAL+ increased from 43 in 2001 (20,000 respondents) to 298 in 2006 (176,360 respondents). This number includes 45 ARL libraries that participated and contributed 31,862 valid responses.
Beginning in 2001, the four factors contributing to the construct of library service began to emerge and were included in the data. In 2002, those were the results emphasized. They were: Affect of Service (9 survey items), Library as Place (5 survey items), Personal Control (6 survey items), and Access to Collections (5 survey items). After the 2003 survey was completed, factor and reliability analyses on the resulting data revealed that two of the dimensions measured by the survey—Access to Information and Personal Control—had collapsed into one. The following three dimensions were measured by the 2004 and the 2006 instruments: Library as Place (5 survey items), Affect of Service (9 survey items), and Information Control (8 survey items). For each item or statement (such as “giving users individual attention”), a participant was asked to rate on a scale of 1-9, with 9 being the highest score, the minimum level of service he or she would find acceptable, the desired level of service, and finally the perceived level of service.
The following table illustrates the type and level of respondents at CU-Boulder. The survey instrument and follow-up reminders were delivered by email. Random samples were used in 2001. In 2002 and 2004, emails were sent to all faculty and graduate students plus a random sample of undergraduate students. In 2006, the survey was sent to email addresses for a random sample of 1200 faculty, 1500 graduate students, and 2500 undergraduates for a total of 5200.
2001 2002 2004 2006
Number of surveys sent
2100 5200 5233 5200 Faculty 600 1200 1232 1200 Graduate Students 600 1500 1501 1500 Undergraduate 900 2500 2500 2500 Responses 230 804 757 544 % Responses 17 15.5 14.5 11 Faculty % 43 28 29 34 Graduate students % 37 36 40 41 Undergraduate % 17 35 29 23
While in 2001 the CU-B Libraries did not meet users’ expectations, in succeeding years numbers had improved so that the CU-B Libraries exceeded users’ expectations in all categories. The differences between overall perceived and minimum scores were:
2001 -0.25 2002 +0.295 2004 +0.70 2006 +0.34
Affect of Service refers to our interactive relationship; i.e., our public service desk interaction such as reference, circulation, Interlibrary Loan, etc. Library as Place rates physical settings and facilities. Following is a comparison of the results of all four administrations of LibQUAL+ at CU-Boulder Libraries in these two categories as measured by the gap between perceived and minimum service:
2001 2002 2004 2006 Affect of Service -0.09 +0.41 +0.70 +0.67 Library as Place -0.45 +0.46 +0.44 +0.30 Information Control -0.31 +0.15 +0.14 +0.05
Two of the categories used in 2001 and 2002, Personal Control and Access to Information, became one category in 2004 called Information Control. In order to compare the four administrations in this category, an average of the gaps between perceived and minimum service was used for 2001 and for 2002.
In 2002, 2004, and 2006, the survey also contained questions for three areas of general satisfaction. Patrons were asked to rate on a scale of 1-9 their levels of general satisfaction, with 9 representing “strongly agree.” The table below contrasts scores received at CU-Boulder with scores received by the combined ARL libraries:
2002 2004 2006 CU Satisfaction with treatment 6.89 7.17 7.20 ARL Satisfaction with treatment 7.28 7.31 7.41 CU Satisfaction with support 6.29 6.49 6.48 ARL Satisfaction with support 6.85 6.88 7.02 CU Overall quality of service 6.55 6.73 6.76 ARL Overall quality of service 7.12 7.08 7.19
It is gratifying to note that, with one small exception, CU-Boulder Libraries showed a steady improvement in all three categories between 2002 and 2006. In fact, the improvement shown by the CU-Boulder Libraries exceeded that of the combined ARL libraries. While it is impossible to determine the reasons for CU-Boulder failing to exceed the ARL averages, there are obvious culprits. The primary one is the condition of the Norlin library building itself which is gravely in need of a major renovation, not just to improve looks but also to improve telecommunications infrastructure, wiring, accessibility, ease of use, safety, and comfortable/reflective work space for individuals and groups. Other reasons probably include low staffing levels and an inadequate materials budget.
LibQUAL+(TM) is a registered trademark of the Association of Research Libraries.